Kanaan to race the No. 1 in May’s 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500, a look at the history of the number

INDIANAPOLIS — Last year, AJ Foyt Racing sought out permission from Chip Ganassi Racing to use the No. 1 in Indianapolis. See, that car number is annually reserved each season for the defending NTT INDYCAR Series champion. Some times though, the defending champ elects not to use it.

Part of the reason is due to branding. Scott Dixon hasn’t run the “1” in any of his past five seasons in his championship defense. That’s why the number was available for use a year ago. Dixon didn’t want to use it. He’s synonymous in Indy Car with the No. 9.

The other part is that the one time that Dixon did use the No. 1, they in large part struggled. He was winless in the 2004 season and finished 10th in the final standings. Part of that was the use of Toyota power which was largely down that year and the other the G-Force chassis. Still, race car drivers are superstitious and his lone season in the “1” they failed to deliver.

So, Ganassi drivers in general have punted on the chance to use the “1.” Dario Franchitti didn’t use it after either of his titles (2009-2011). Alex Palou didn’t either.

So, with the number available, Tony Kanaan felt like he’d ask Palou to use it. See, Kanaan is racing with Ganassi, so they as an organization own the rights to that number. It’s a seamless move for Kanaan to run with it. Still, Kanaan felt he owed Palou the respect to ask him to use it. Palou, happily obliged.

Now, Kanaan will drive the No. 1 Honda-Dallara for Chip Ganassi Racing with American Legion’s colors on it.

The only drivers to use the No. 1 as the defending champion the following year lately have been Ryan Hunter-Reay (2013), Will Power (2015), Simon Pagenaud (2017) and Josef Newgarden (2018, 2020). 4 of the 5 occurrences since 2005 were Penske drivers. Kanaan, won the 2004 title but elected to retain his familiar No. 11 for the 2005 season. In 2005, Dan Wheldon won the title but went to Chip Ganassi Racing in 2006 so he moved to their No. 10. In 2006 and 2007, Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti won titles respectively but Hornish kept the No. 6 in 2007 while Franchitti went to NASCAR in 2008.

Hornish, also kept the No. 4 with Panther following his two titles in 2001 and 2002. Buddy Lazier kept the 91 when he won the 2000 title.

The No. 1 car has won the Indy 500 7 times but the last came in 1971 with Al Unser. The all-time winningest car number at Indy is actually the No. 3. It’s won 11 times. The last one being in 2009 from Helio Castroneves. 2nd most is No. 2 with 9 wins with the last time for that car number being victorious being in 2015 by Juan Pablo Montoya.

A total of 40 car numbers have won the big race. We’ve seen 10 different car numbers win the last 10 years of this race (10, 11, 28, 2, 98, 26, 12, 22, 30, 06).

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